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Hike to Two Rivers Lake

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Northeast end of Two Rivers Lake looking at Notch Top Mountain

Dave, a good photog friend and hiking buddy of mine, and I hiked up to Two Rivers Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park this last week.  It’s a relatively short hike from the Bear Lake Trailhead up the Flat top trail towards Odessa and Lily Lake along the Fern Lake Trail.  About 6 miles round trip.  To avoid the crowds at this very popular Trailhead we arrived a little after 6am at Bear Lake to begin our hike.

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Dave stands beside the sign where the Flattop Mountain Trail and the Fern Lake Trail diverge

It was an entertaining trek as we encountered numerous small streams with running water (your hiking along Mill Creek that comes from Two Rivers Lake) and a variety of wildflowers along the way.

Two Rivers Lake can be difficult to find.  It’s not readily visible from the trail unless you’re looking for it.  There is not a true trail to it and thus one must ‘bushwhack’ their way to it.  The lake is not far off the Fern Lake Trail, at the most about a hundred yards.  But between you and the lake is a downhill boulder field followed by thick vegetation to whack through once you get close to the water. 

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A good ‘tell’ that you are in the area is a sign for a backcountry campground named ‘Sourdough’.  Once you meet up with this sign, the place to get off the trail is only about 50+ yards ahead (on the left).  At this point you will have to pick what looks like the easiest way to Rock Hop down to the lake (and through the thick trees).

Now, there’s a trail of sorts that one can take down near the lake about 25 yards beyond this point.  The problem with this is that the trail takes you toward the southwest end of the lake.  If you’re there for photography, this is not the end of the lake you want to be at.  Jutting up out of the lake at the southwest end is Notch Top Mountain.  Viewing from the Northeast end of the lake makes for a more pleasing photograph with Mountain giving the image depth at the other end.  So, if you have been ‘sucked’ down this trail, you now have to rock hop and bushwhack back around the edge of the lake.  We had a lot of company along this trek (yes, we erroneously went down the trail) in the form of swarms of mosquitoes.  In fact, they were ever present our whole time at the lake, but I came away with zero bites.  No idea why?  All males?

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I ‘rock hopped’ across the water to get out to a vantage from which to shoot.

At the northeast end I found rocks in the water that I could use to make my way out into the lake to get a decent angle from which to look down it’s length (see picture at top of post). 

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See Dave at the far left, in the bushes getting his shot!

Dave had long pants on (I was in shorts) and choose to continue through very thick brush to the end of the lake and shoot from there.  But, he’s the professional, what do I know (but I’m learning!).

After we were done, we rock hopped directly back up to Fern Lake Trail.  It was mindful of the ‘Boulder Field’ one hops through up near the Keyhole on Long’s Peak.  The differences?  They’re large rocks not boulders and it’s not as long a hopping journey to endeavor!

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Dave finishing up his trek over the rocks back to the Fern Lake Trail

At this point it was only about 10 am, so we chose to hike on to Lake Helene which is about a quarter mile up the trail.  It’s a smaller, roundish lake with very clear water.  We didn’t spend much time there and hiked a little farther to a rocky overlook that provides a view down a long valley in which Lake Odessa is visible. Fern Lake (which lies beyond Lake Odessa) is not visible from this perch.

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Rocky perch available on the left side of trail when traveling toward Odessa Lake

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Odessa Lake visible in the valley from atop the rock perch.

I learned that some treat the Fern Lake Trail as a loop hike.  They continue downhill into the valley from this point past Lake Odessa to Fern Lake.  Nearby Fern Lake (I’m told) you can pick up a shuttle that will take you back up to Bear Lake (and your car).  This makes the hike about 8 miles plus the ride.  We chose to hike back down to Bear Lake meeting many friendly hikers coming up along our way.

(Except for the very top image, all the rest were taken with an iPhone 7 plus)

Spiking it in Rocky, Testing Kahtoola’s MICROspikes







_VEE0190Today was the first day I had time and weather to get out into the mountains.  I was excited to try out my new MICROspikes from Kahtoola.  I had tried several hikes in winter mountains last year without them and it was difficult and scary!

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So here they are (above), trying them on for the first time in the parking lot!  Just navigating the ice in the Parking Lot had me thinking that I had spent my money wisely!

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My test for them was to take place in an area I was familiar with, Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Bear Lake has a number of spurs off of it one can take up into the mountains.  But, it also has a relatively level hike around the Lake that is only about a mile.  Well, the initial trial went so well I was easily drawn in to do an uphill test.

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One of the spurs off the lake has a trial that after .4 miles splits and heads up to the top of Flat Top Mountain.  It’s 4 miles (as you can see from the sign) and goes gradually uphill, high above the lakes on a trial below that leads to Emerald Lake.  Now, I didn’t pretend that I would go that to the top of the mountain on my initial test, but I knew there was a nice overlook of one of the lakes below (Dream Lake) just less than two miles away.

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So, I was off.  It was a beautiful day.  Blue skies and temps in the mid to upper 30s at the elevation I was hiking at.  There was 2.5 to 3 feet of snow on the trial.  But, it had been well packed down by snowshoers and traction footwear hikers like me.  Even though I have been walking and jogging to stay in shape, I soon learned the difference that altitude and snow can make!  The MICROspikes worked well though and I felt confident going across some fairly steep areas along the way.  I only ‘telephone poled‘ it a couple of times.  That’s a term I learned at lunch in town.  That’s when you sink into the snow up to your butt!

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The only real downside to my hike was the occasional garbage and defacing of trees I found along the trail.

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Usually when you get more than 100 yards from the parking lot one does not find these type of problems.  The hikers that have worked to get this far are usually very aware of how their behavior can detract from the beauty of this area.  Leave No Trace is their mantra.  I guess this area (near the beginning of the spur) was low enough that some newbie hikers had made it this far.  I only hope they learn quickly the negative effect their careless behavior has on the experience of other hikers and the environment.

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The view along the way was beautiful and I was rewarded when I got to the Dream Lake Overlook with a beautiful azure blue sky.  You could look over the edge and see hikers walking along the frozen lake below.  As for photography, my only complaint was that I could have used a few clouds to make the sky more interesting.  But, hey, who’s complaining when this is the view from their office?